View gallery - 72 images The rise of popular music in the last century can largely be attributed to the accessibility of music, with first recording and playback devices records, tapes, CDs , the proliferation of mass media radio and television , then the unstoppable momentum of the MP3 file format and widespread distribution and consumption of music via the Internet. Now that everyone has an audio player in their phone and everyone has a phone, music is more influential than ever. Nothing catalyzes the reliving of a moment in one's life quite as vividly as a musical track.
Popular music and technology has helped each and every one of us to construct our own individual soundtrack for our lives, and store it on our person. The electric guitar is the foremost musical instrument of the last 50 years, so it's not surprising that guitars that have played a lead role in significant musical happenings sell particularly well at auction.
Like collectible cars, it has only been in recent times that vintage guitars have become very valuable at auction and are now viable alternative asset classes for investment. The following list of the most valuable guitars sold at auction has been compiled in the same way we have compiled our other "most valuable" lists such as the most valuable cars , most valuable motorcycles and most valuable movie cars , in that we only count those sold at auction which can hence be verified as sold at a certain price by a reputable source the auction house.
Private sales don't count because there is no publicly available record of the transaction and word-of-mouth tends to exaggerate a price. We've also used the same valuation methodology as previous lists the auction price listed includes the buyer's premium to reflect the total price paid by the purchaser and we've converted all prices into American dollars at the prevailing exchange rates on the day of the auction , ordering the list based on the price in American dollars, mainly because America is the heart of the collectibles industry, and we once before found that using more than one currency is problematic due to fluctuating exchange rates.
Eric Clapton guitars the most valuable Even more so than with cars and motorcycles , provenance is key in our most expensive collectible guitar listings, and the tools of the trade of the most prominent guitar heroes have risen to the top in the auction marketplace. Brownie was the most valuable guitar ever auctioned when it fetched that price at a Christies auction on 24 June, Major artists with more than one entry in this list are also, not co-incidentally, the leading proponents of the electric guitar.
Glenn Kenny of Barron's captured the essence of the equation in this article on guitar investment when he wrote: Value is found as much in how the instrument played a part in musical history as it is in the fineness of its tone. That said, among the axes of the guitar gods on this list are many original guitars with no links to major entertainers whatsoever.
Gibson's original run of Explorers and Flying Vs are worth more than a quarter million apiece in good condition, with Gibson Les Paul Standards, Martin Ds, Martin OMs, Martin Ds and Martin s all capable of running well into six figures. These are guitars which have become valuable due to their fineness of tone and their limited production runs, and can be regarded as blue chip investments.
Quality plus scarcity equals value on the auction block. Now there may well be some long-term changes beginning in the guitar industry because the advent of digital music production software and the limitless processing power to create any sound imaginable are changing the landscape, but those changes are only just beginning to impact new guitar sales.
In addition to a robust used guitar industry, there are still 2. That's a massive and growing user base which appreciates the craftsmanship and tone of the vintage guitar. There's also the ageing demographic of the world to consider. The baby boomer generation is now beginning to control the world's wealth, and is the wealthiest generation in history, with more Ultra High Net Worth Individuals UHNWI than any generation before it. It's the generation that went through puberty as the guitar gods were anointed.
Rock stars are the heroes of the age, guitars are the primary tools of their trade, and there are no prizes for guessing where the majority of the world's UHNWI grew up. Guitars as an investment It's fair to say that guitars are not yet as robust an asset class as traditional stocks and bonds. When the availability of liquidity dried up in the mids, the price of guitars took the best part of a decade to recover, then it stalled again with the dotcom bust, and it is only recently on a roll after the financial crisis.
Though it must also be said that when the market is rolling, wisely investing in guitars offers far greater returns than anything you'll get in the stock market. Our musical heritage is again a driving factor, and the new wave of money brought by the rise of the Internet has created a new class of investor with a different set of tastes and values.
It's not every vintage guitar that appreciates rapidly in value though. As Gibson itself states on its website , "The vintage and limited edition guitar growth in market value is often quoted at about 15 percent per year on average, but these are generally limited to instruments built during the s and s.
This guitar was sold at an auction co-ordinated by Canadian singer-songwriter Bryan Adams , in Doha, Qatar on November 16, , to raise funds for the tsunami charity, Reach out to Asia.
The guitar auction was conducted by Sotheby's Henry Wyndham, who said from the podium, "I have auctioned many items for charity in my life but never have I witnessed the levels we achieved tonight.
This will stay in my memory for a very long time indeed. Bob Marley guitars have twice been shrouded in controversy here's the other one , which is a great shame because his memory deserves better. If anyone has any information that can help in validating or invalidating the many claims published on the Internet regarding this guitar, we'd be deeply appreciative.
Richards sold the guitar to Mick Taylor , of John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers , and when Taylor replaced Brian Jones in The Rolling Stones in it returned to the band for a further two years before being apparently stolen in , one story suggesting during the recording of Exile on Main St.
The Fender Stratocaster which Bob Dylan used in his infamous "electric" performance at the Newport Folk Festival When Bob Dylan took to the stage at the Newport Folk Festival on July 25, , the three-song set the year-old poet-singer-prodigy performed made news around the world.
It was the first time Dylan had performed with an electric backing band, made up of Mike Bloomfield and some members of The Paul Butterfield Blues Band and it was, according to Rolling Stone magazine, "one of the most notable events in music history. This is the Fender Stratocaster Dylan used during that performance and it made headlines in when it was submitted to the PBS television program History Detectives for authentication, going on to be auctioned by Christies in New York on 6 December, and becoming the most expensive stage-used guitar to sell at auction.
The full auction description is worth a read for the back story, which included full-on fisticuffs between Dylan's manager, Albert Grossman, and festival board member and staunch traditionalist Alan Lomax and the comments of American folk legend and political activist Pete Seeger, "if I'd had an axe I'd cut the cable. Used both on stage and in the studio from the early seventies to the mid eighties by Eric Clapton.
Clapton auctioned Blackie to raise money for his Crossroads Rehabilitation Center. Clapton was a heroin addict for many years and once he emerged at the end of the ordeal, he subsequently devoted a significant proportion of his wealth and influence to help the similarly addicted.
Blackie is special in many ways. Clapton told Dan Forte in a interview published in Guitar Player: I get offered guitars and endorsements come along every now and then.
I tried it, and liked it, and played it on stage — liked it a lot. But while I was doing that, I was thinking 'Well, Blackie is back there. If I get into this guitar too deeply, it's tricky, because then I won't be able to go back to Blackie. And what will happen to that? I can be miles away thinking about this stuff, and suddenly I shut down and say, 'This is enough. You're very nice, but A unique custom guitar made by master Luthier Doug Irwin and the primary guitar of Grateful Dead lead guitarist Jerry Garcia from to The last guitar Garcia played publicly.
One of popular music's original "wild men," Jerry Garcia was the lead guitarist, lead singer and songwriter for the Grateful Dead for its entire 30 year performing career, which included an amazing 2, concerts, despite battling diabetes, cocaine addiction and heroin addiction. Though Irwin built five guitars for Garcia, two guitars in particular were used for the majority of his work, being Tiger his main guitar from to and Rosebud his main guitar from to Due to a problem with Rosebud during the final Grateful Dead concert July 9, before Garcia's death on August 9, , Tiger was the last guitar Garcia played publicly.
No doubt Deadheads already know of this wonderful resource on the Dead's instruments , but if you are a fan, you'll be delighted. Originally purchased by Clapton in , this hollow-body electric guitar was used throughout his career, playing a role in the music of the Yardbirds, Cream, Blind Faith, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers and his post-addiction solo career, becoming one of Slowhand's principal stage-used guitars during the nineties.
Fellow Yardbird Chris Dreja was photographed playing Clapton's more often than Clapton in this early stage of Clapton's career. In December , Clapton played this guitar on Badge and other tracks from the Goodbye album. Clapton used this guitar extensively with Blind Faith in recording sessions and on stage during the Scandinavian and US Tours that followed. Clapton said in a interview that this guitar was also used on his rendition of Ray Charles' Hard Times released on the Journeyman album.
According to Lee Dickson, this guitar was taken to practically all of Clapton's recording sessions from to Clapton can be seen playing this guitar at Filmore West on the 8th and 9th of November, , in the footage of a documentary film of the Nothing But Blues Tour, directed by Martin Scorsese.
It remained as a stage guitar, largely reserved for Freddy King numbers, until the summer of Again, it was captured in concert footage that year when Clapton used it on various TV shows, most notably the VH-1 Duets program with Dr. John at Roseland, New York on the 9th May, It went on to serve as Clapton's main stage acoustic guitar between and , mostly used in the opening acoustic segments of the Blues concerts for numbers such as Malted Milk.
When Martin was developing its first Eric Clapton signature model EC, Eric Clapton requested that the construction of that guitar should be based on the structure of this guitar. A Martin publicity photograph at the time shows Clapton holding this guitar in one hand, and the new signature model in the other. Although Clapton Signature Martin guitars with built-in pickups began to be used for larger concert venues from onward, this guitar remained as the main stage acoustic guitar through the Far Eastern Tour and the first leg of the Pilgrim US Tour in Jerry Garcia's first custom made guitar, made by Doug Irwin, who, at that time was working for Alembic in San Francisco.
Irwin made Garcia's 'Eagle' guitar and Garcia was so impressed with it he asked Irwin to make another, but with Stratocaster pick-ups. The result was the 'Wolf', delivered to Garcia in , and played for six years. At the same time he commissioned another guitar from Irwin, one with which he gave Irwin complete free rein to build.
It took six years to complete this second guitar which became known as 'Tiger' — see above on this listing. Garcia's Wolf guitar suffered some damage during a European tour in and was returned to Irwin for repairs.
It was at this time that Irwin replaced the Wolf sticker that Garcia had stuck onto the guitar, with wood inlays. Garcia willed, on his death in , both Wolf and Tiger to Doug Irwin.
After Irwin settled a lawsuit against the Grateful Dead in November "The Dead" had claimed ownership of the instruments , Irwin put them up for sale in a Guernseys auction of Grateful Dead memorabilia at Manhattan's Studio The standing-room-only crowd cheered every bid, as Garcia's guitars zoomed past the previous world record figure for a guitar. Beatlemania was just beginning and Harrison met a few other young musicians during his stay and told them about his interest in buying a Rickenbacker.
Harrison looked at Fenton's selection and chose the guitar he liked, but it wasn't available in his preferred black to match Lennon's black Rickenbacker. The guitar was refinished in black and on his return to the United Kingdom, he used it during The Beatles' first appearance on the television program Ready Steady Go!
Harrison used the guitar during the Beatles' October week-long tour of Sweden, the first overseas gig for the band since their early days in Hamburg. He interchangeably used his Country Gentleman and the Harrison was photographed with the guitar extensively on this tour, and the entire band was photographed posing with the guitar as well.
This is purported to be the only known photograph in existence of all four Beatles holding a single guitar. This song, The Beatles' fifth single, gave the band its break in the US market. The same session produced the recording of This Boy. John Lennon also played the guitar backstage at a performance in Glasgow, Scotland, on October 5, A photograph published in an August Beat Monthly magazine shows Lennon with this guitar.
In the late s or early s, Harrison gave the guitar to George Peckham, who had a long association with Apple and especially George Harrison in multiple roles, including cutting engineer at Apple. Peckham had borrowed a guitar from Harrison for his appearance on Top of the Pops, as a rhythm guitarist in the band The Fourmost. When he went to return the guitar, Harrison gave it to him, saying that it was a "great rhythm player. Peckham kept the guitar in the condition he received it with no further modifications.
The guitar case sold with the guitar was given to Peckham by Slade band member Noddy Holder , as Peckham was carrying it around without a case.